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Inspections ordered for all Calif. gas lines

September 12, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
California regulators are ordering Pacific Gas & Electric to survey all its natural gas lines across the state in hopes of preventing another tragic explosion like the one that leveled a San Bruno neighborhood. The California Public Utilities Commission is ordering PG&E to inspect all of its pipelines for leaks.

The commission said it will also be creating an independent expert panel to investigate the deadly explosion.

The announcement comes just as records show that the pipe that exploded was at risk of failing.

PG&E records show the section of pipe that exploded and caused the explosion was considered high risk and in need of more inspections.

A segment of the pipe about 2.5 miles away from the disaster area was one of PG&E's 100 most dangerous sections of line, officials said.

About 300 families were allowed back home Sunday for the first time since the disaster took place.

However, another 50 homes that were damaged or destroyed are still off limits, and the neighborhood, which is located in the suburb just south of San Francisco, is still being treated as a crime scene.

Currently, there are conflicting reports on the number of those confirmed dead. The police chief said seven were killed, but the coroner said four. The blast also caused nearly 60 injuries.

One of the victims was 20-year-old Jessica Morales. Her boyfriend tried to rescue her from the flames.

'"He tried to go back in and save her but he couldn't do anything because the fire was getting her," said Morales' friend, Dayna Hernandez.

Cadaver dogs continue to search the wreckage for those who are missing.

Meanwhile, investigators are still trying to figure out what caused the pipe to rupture Thursday evening, exploding into a deadly fireball.

Authorities said that the pipeline had been categorized as high risk because it ran through a highly populated area.

Saturday, Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, who is serving as acting governor while Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger travels in Asia, directed the commission to perform integrity assessments of all pipeline segments in the area.

Pacific Gas & Electric workers have almost finished inspecting its three transmission lines that run through San Bruno and further south down the San Francisco peninsula, PG&E vice president Geisha Williams said

At the epicenter of the massive blast, there was a 15-foot crater created by the explosion that was so strong, it melted the asphalt. The 15-acre fire was fully contained shortly after 1 p.m. on Friday.

Friday, authorities were looking into reports by some San Bruno residents smelled gas in the area weeks before the massive explosion. Chris Johns, president of PG&E, said the company had not received confirmation that there were reports of a gas smell in the area before the explosion, but said they were looking into it.

Transmission lines like the one that burst in San Bruno deliver natural gas from its source to distribution lines, which then carry it into neighborhoods before branching off into homes.

If you would like to help the residents affected by the San Bruno fire, monetary donations can be sent to:

American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter
Attn: Development
85 Second Street, 8th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94105

You can also call (888) 4-HELP-BAY or visit the American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter's website to donate online, http://www.redcrossbayarea.org.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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